For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway


This article has taken a brief but comprehensive look at carriage stock design and construction, from Sinclair's first carriages in 1856 to the final deliveries of GER designed stock in 1924.

So far as can be calculated during that 66 year period a total of 7088 vehicles were delivered, of which 3189 were 4 wheelers, 2529 6 wheelers and the remaining 1370 bogie stock, including 12 with 6 wheel bogies. Contractors had built 2384 carriages to the overall total, initially their contribution was for policy reasons but latterly as an enforced consequence of war.

At Grouping Stratford had in hand the construction of suburban carriages for which the last orders were placed in March 1923. It was also engaged in the continuing work of converting ambulance train vehicles for main line use and the last orders for the remaining 12 vehicles were placed in May 1923 and finally completed in November 1924.

Thereafter most future stock for the GE Section would be designed and built elsewhere and Stratford Works was to have only a limited role in future carriage construction before its reorganisation to deal solely with the maintenance and repair of GE Section stock.

The LNER inherited several problems from the GER that needed to be solved. Firstly, the 4 wheeled suburban carriage still reigned supreme on the Chingford, Enfield, Palace Gates and North Woolwich branches. Secondly, despite a strong programme of bogie stock building, contributing 1370 vehicles to the LNER, the 6 wheel coach more than outnumbered this total. They were found everywhere, on many main line services, almost exclusively on the branches and even a few in the suburban area.   Thirdly, the fine trains built for the continental services early in the century no longer represented the best in passenger comfort and needed early replacement. The LNER during its 25 year history experienced a deep economic depression and another world war, events having a serious effect on the task of stock replacement and improvement, but that is another story.

Sources of Information    

To help those who might want to pursue their own research I have set out in full all the material consulted, most of which may be found at the National Railway Museum and The National Archives as follows:

Carriage Stock Registers: NRM Library Reference: E6/153L to E6/158L

These registers now held at the National Railway Museum were compiled at Stratford in about 1900 and carefully updated and maintained until the mid 1950's. They list each carriage that existed in 1900 and every one subsequently built up to the last orders delivered in 1924. Information includes the running number, any subsequent renumbering, order number, building date, diagram number and details of alterations, including the installation of new lighting, replacement of brakes, etc and lastly the withdrawal date. The details extracted from these registers, which I first consulted at Stratford Works in 1963, forms the foundation on which all my subsequent research on carriage stock has been built.

Carriage Diagram Book: TNA Reference RAIL/227/439, GER Society’s Collection at the Essex Record Office Reference D/Z 346/1993

The 1906 carriage diagram book, prepared after the compilation of the carriage register, consists of a series of small line diagrams of each type of carriage and is described more fully below. The diagrams were updated and corrected until the late 1950's and copies of the complete book may be consulted at the PRO and the NRM. The latter can also supply copies of the individual diagrams as listed and described in Information Sheet M131 but they have their limitations.

Half Yearly Reports of the Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Department: TNA References RAIL/227/398 to 402.

These cover the period 1885 to 1910 and contain an unparalleled record of construction and costings supported by a vast array of statistical and financial detail, including comparisons with all the other leading railways. This is a much under used resource, I suspect, and it deals with the construction of all locomotives, carriages, wagons and road vehicles with details of other work for which the Department was responsible.

Half Yearly Reports: TNA Reference RAIL/1110/158-163 (GER) and RAIL/186/122 (ECR)

Every railway was obliged to prepare reports for the information of its shareholders; these were half yearly from the early 1850's until 1912, thereafter they were produced on an annual basis. The reports provide an ongoing record of the financial fortunes of the Company, the state of the traffic and the development of important new services and facilities. A schedule of rolling stock totals, broken down into categories, is also included.

Minute Books: TNA Classes RAIL/186 (ECR), RAIL/227 (GER)

The minute books for the ECR and GER are held at the Public Record Office and numerous references to carriage stock are found primarily in the Board minutes and the proceedings of the Locomotive and Traffic Committees. Other Committees dealt with specific carriage stock issues, notably the Continental Committee for stock associated with services from Parkeston Quay, and the Stores Committee for the supply of components in the early years and, in the post war period, when the GER was obliged to purchase stock from contractors. GERS Information Sheet M102 provides a comprehensive list of all the minute books and other relevant material available to readers at the PRO.

General Arrangement Drawings:

For full constructional details of carriage stock, both external and internal, there is no substitute for the general arrangement drawings prepared at Stratford Works. A very wide selection of these are available as prints from microfiche from the NRM and are listed in Information Sheets N117, N123, N126, N129 and N135 and cover the period from the late 1850's to 1924. The microfiche may also be consulted in the NRM Search Engine.

Appropriations Book: GERS Collection reference D/Z 346/1499

From 1856 onwards every order for locomotives and rolling stock was allocated an order number, the first being A1 running to Z1 then from A2 to Z2 and so on. The last order placed was G90 in February 1924 for 40 LNER refrigerator wagons. Although this system was the cornerstone of the financial control of all activities at the Works is a sad fact that this book is the only surviving list. The document starts on 1 January 1879 and runs through to Grouping when the system came to an end; it was a working document, used in the Works itself and while it appears to include all new construction there are many gaps in the series. This means that no comprehensive record now exists of many of the alterations and modifications made to stock.

John Watling April 2014